… [and] the greatest of these is LOVE #31WriteNow

God will move the universe to prove you wrong if she so chooses.

Since fall 2011, I’ve been leading an African rites of passage in Harlem crafted for young adults of the diaspora with awesome spouse. As is the practice in the House, one is bestowed a name as a calling to their higher self. Last summer, I earned a name that – albeit beautiful – I couldn’t grasp why my elders were moved to bestow it upon me. I figured when my naming would come, the meaning would be something like “she who vanquishes procrastination and self-doubt by springing immediately into action every time while remaining totally level-headed and calm!” That’s something I can/should/NEED to aspire to. Instead, my Nzinga name means “she teaches us how to love”


dude. how am I supposed to swing that?!

I literally had joined the Ndugu and Nzinga family literally months before earning my name. I, like Jon Snow, know nothing. Certainly not enough to teach myself nor anyone – much less initiates in a rites of passage – how to love.

I tried to imagine what love teaching looked like and what came to mind was my old roommate Zahava who teaches inner sexual expansion. Zahava’s ministry is perhaps not what my elders had in mind when naming me.

In typical defeatist fashion, I stopped exploring what my name meant and resolved that maybe it just means what it says it means. I’ll teach how to love by being the “loving one”. fin.

and then the universe proved me wrong. The constant unknown isn’t proof that I should give up seeking, but rather, that I should remain open to learning. While in a meeting with prosecutors, when asked what are some things that will keep my client from future arrests, she said among other things “aisha shows me I can be loved”. Then while talking to a colleague and survivor of intimate partner violence, he told me he rests his hand on his clients’ backs when speaking to them to prove to himself that touch can be loving and to show his clients he loves them as a fellow human being. While talking to a client whose goals are to someday provide psychotherapy to fellow survivors of trafficking, she said “I’m gonna tell all my patients ‘I LOVE YOU!’ because if I don’t, their pimp will be the only one telling them that. I think you love me miss aisha, you just don’t say it. you need to start telling your clients you love them!” And finally, while at a hookah bar celebrating my friend’s birthday, I met a kindred spirit who represents neglected and abused children in New Jersey. One of her goals is to open a group home in Trenton with a client/resident-centered focus on love. Because like we both agreed, NON-love is the greatest means of vulnerability for young people. NON-love makes a 13 year old even more invisible and vulnerable when in the foster care system. While everyone around us was getting hookah-ed up, we were leaning into each other, glassy-eyed, talking about using an affective means of effectively advocating for our clients armed with love.

Jesus be some dry tear ducts.

So, I can’t say I know fully what it means to “teach” love, but I’m grateful God has proved me wrong it believing it to be impossible.

I leave you with this quote from one of my favorite novels…

“Don’t be like those people who believe in “positive thinking” and tell themselves that they’re loved and strong and capable. You don’t need to do that because you know it already. And when you doubt it — which happens, I think, quite often at this stage of evolution — do as I suggested. Instead of trying to prove that you’re better than you think, just laugh. Laugh at your worries and insecurities. View your anxieties with humor. It will be difficult at first, but you’ll gradually get used to it. Now go back and meet all those people who think you know everything. Convince yourself that they’re right, because we all know everything, it’s merely a question of believing.” – The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho